WOMEN WHO WAGED WAR AGAINST VIRUS: KK SHAILAJA
Meet KK SHAILAJA or popularly known as Shailaja teacher a 63-year-old health minister who leads the war against virus attacks one after another fiercely and successfully. Even before the deadly Corona outbreak teacher has been in the mainstream headlines for a while. She was showered with praises for her quick response and action to a Facebook post seeking to save a child’s life.
The first-time minister came to power in 2016, as part of the State government formed by the Left Democratic Front (LDF) under first-time Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan. She had been in politics full time for only a little more than a decade then. Till 2004, this mother of two boys was a high school teacher at a village in her native Kannur district in north Kerala. She was active in politics since her college days, as a member of the Students Federation of India (SFI) and later as a central committee member at the Communist Part of India (Marxist) aka CPI(M).
Shailaja’s time in power, incidentally, also happens to be a period in which Kerala faced its biggest tragedies in recent history – including massive floods in two consecutive years. In fact, the first half of 2018 witnessed the outbreak of Nipah Virus in the Southern State, which took 18 lives at the time. By August in the same year, Kerala had also witnessed severe floods across the State, reporting around 500 deaths and property damage worth thousands of crores of rupees. In 2019 too, the floods took more than 120 lives in Kerala, although the damages were relatively lesser. In all these situations, Shailaja was at the forefront, making even the critiques of the Leftist government pay adulation to her patience, empathy, resilience, and attention to detail.
Nipah Outbreak 2018: –
In the year 2018 during the first week of May Kerala’s Kozhikode district witnessed an outbreak of even deadlier virus than that of Corona, Nipah Virus. Nipah Virus had a 40-75 percent fatality rate compared to 3-4 percentage for Corona Virus. Kerala witnessed 21 deaths and 23 affected patients. With the joint effort of corresponding District collectors, Medical professionals and other authorized professionals Teacher lead an exceptional team that contained the spread of this deadly virus. with strict actions like quarantining over 2000 people suspected of being infected in Kozhikode and the neighboring Malappuram districts and actively tracing people who may have come in contact with infected persons Nipah outbreak was successfully controlled in the state and by mid-June, Kerala was declared free of Nipah.
The Nipah episode even inspired a Malayalam film, Virus (2019), with veteran actor Revathy essaying the Health Minister’s role.
Nipah Outbreak 2019: –
A new case of a 23-year-old student was detected again on 4 June 2019 in Kochi. Once again the minister meticulously planned steps to contain the virus from previous experience, over 300 people were put under observation. Later no further cases were observed and the student recovered successfully.
COVID Outbreak 2020: –
Ever since the Coronavirus was first reported in Wuhan in China towards the end of last year, she had been following up on it since Wuhan is a popular destination for students from Kerala to pursue Medicine and Engineering. In fact, the first case of Coronavirus in India was reported in January, in Kerala, when one of the students returning from Wuhan was tested positive for the virus, followed by two more Wuhan-returnees.
To Shailaja’s credit, the State was well-prepared this time, with quarantine facilities ready for those tested positive and medical aid available without hardships. Subject experts were called in, and Scientific reasoning – not superstitions or unfounded beliefs – was paramount in decision-making.
In as early as February the first week, the Kerala government had even declared State-wide Emergency for a week, activating preparations on the war-footing basis – including cancellation of all public events, closing down educational institutions, and movie theatres, and even appointing 276 more doctors (via PSC). Later, as the nation later went into lockdown, (the Social Welfare part of) Shailaja’s ministry even started serving afternoon meals for school children at their homes.
Now Kerala is successfully recovering from the outbreak with more and more people recovering while the number of newly infected people and decreasing day by day. Future generations see a great leader who has no medical background yet fiercely waging war against viruses and defending her citizens making even the oppositions applaud her success, a woman who never did hold back, a woman who was brave and courageous
At VamaIndia we are thankful to the women like Shailaja Teacher.
Written By – Anagha Nair